Thursday, July 06, 2006


Just finished THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, Joan Didion's memoir on the death and sickness of, respectively, her husband John Gregory Dunne and their daughter Quintana. It's an interesting comparison (for my navel) to consider Didion's book with the manuscript I just finished (see prior post) about the death of my father (still only three months ago).

Because my form is poetry, I of course use the poetic "I" who, for me, is not I's negation but the defining of I as All. (Both are equally impossible but this is just the formal aspect, yah?) From my first poem "What Can A Daughter Say?"--

What is a number? "I" is rarely "1".

Or, hmm, let me share a longer excerpt:

To reassess exile's historical role--
To acknowledge exile as savior--
To not diminish "exile" as mere manifestation of

And Jesus said, according to Judas, "Why have you gone into hiding?"

O Heart, my father is not Elie Hobeika who killed 1,700 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. And "an unknown number of others" during the Lebanese Civil War.

O Heart, my father is not Enver Hoxha of Albania whose victims cannot be counted reliably by the living, but can be estimated as "in the thousands."

What is a number? "I" is rarely "1".

She says about being "a child of a dictator"--"I don't remember."

I think I could have taken a more direct memoir route of writing about my father's death. At first, I hesitated because I thought that any poet's life isn't that interesting to others. But that's not right -- it could be if the work is written well and interestingly enough. And so it became a technical strategy: the book about my father's death became written from the I of Many because such would deepen further...Grief.

The radical swing between despair and (if not joy at least) optimism is more authentic.

Thus also making its ending, "[GRIN]" even more of a ... relief.


Didion entitled her book, by the way, because her "magical thinking" was one of desperately wanting her husband back. I know how she feels--more than one is referenced by:

She wanted him back.